Deployed pen pal inspires future Army leader

By Sgt. Ashlind HouseJanuary 9, 2023

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Receiving a letter from a pen pal as a child can build a memory that lasts a lifetime. For U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Katie Glover, an assistant professor for military science at North Carolina State Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, her pen pal was the start of her love for the U.S. Army.

Glover and the rest of her second-grade class wrote letters to the Soldiers deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield; little did she know she would be one of the only children to get a letter back. The deployed Soldiers were advised to choose a letter and write the child back during their downtime. U.S. Army 2nd Lt. John R. Evans, now Lt. Gen. and U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) commanding general, decided to set an example for his subordinate Soldiers and write a child back.

Glover enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003 after finishing her bachelor's degree and later decided to go back to school for her master’s degree through the U.S. Army Green to Gold program. Her choice to follow a career with the U.S. Army was built on many events, but it all started with a letter.

“With the care packages would also come these ‘Soldiers to Any Letter.’ All the kids in elementary school were doing this, and they would get stacks and stacks of them,” said Evans. “So, most of my guys would read one now and then, but very few would respond. I thought ‘Okay, I should do this.’ I should just get a letter and send a kid back a note. Just let them know I got their letter.” I picked a Katie Rose letter out of the pile, and it was a cute little letter with a picture of her and a friend I believe. So, I said ‘Okay. I’ll answer her letter because we had nothing but time.’ I sat down with my legal pad and crafted out a little page letter. Lo and behold, six weeks later I received another letter.”

The letters that Evans and Glover exchanged took place from 1990 to 1991. Glover was only eight years old, but these letters were only the beginning.

“This experience laid a foundation for me to love the military and be very supportive of the military,” said Glover. “Up until that point, I was planning on opening a small business. That was my plan when I was an undergrad. Then September 11th hit, and the world became patriotic again. All those experiences combined led me to the military.”

When Glover thinks of Evans, she thinks of him as a longtime friend. However, when she found out he was a Lt. Gen. and a commanding officer she was not surprised.

“The fact that he is a Lt. Gen. is not lost on me. But the fact that he is still the amazing leader that I suppose you could say he was in 1990,” said Glover. “All these kids wrote these letters; he took the time to pick up a letter and write back. He took the time to make a little kid feel important, and he took the time to give me a perspective of the military as a nine-year-old elementary schooler from Swansea, Massachusetts. He took that time to let me learn about the military. I mean why did I ever think he wasn’t going to be a General with that kind of mindset?”

Seeing Lt. Gen. Evans’ name on a U.S. Army Cadet Command pamphlet left Glover surprised. Because when she saw his name, she thought Evans had long retired.

“It is funny and not at all unexpected for her to think I had retired because 99.9% of my year group has, but it is kind of neat that she was able to find me again,” said Evans. “It is also neat for me to see where she is at because I still think of her, a little bit, like the little girl. But she's a major now, she got kids that are growing up, and she's teaching college, so I am thinking to myself ‘wow, look at all she has accomplished in the time that I knew her, where she is now.”

Glover speaks highly of Lt. Gen. Evans because of the leader he was so early on in his career and where he is now.

“Seeing how far he has come doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Glover. “Because that is the type of character that should be a General.”

Evans is in his 35th year of service and when asked what his advice people in the service or coming in he stated, “I always tell people, I tell my kids, life's most significant truth is just not about you, so to me it should be about selfless service,” said Evans. “That is the most rewarding thing. Most people go out too often and look for things that make them happy. They find themselves unfulfilled at the end of the day. The things that I think fill you are serving people.”

Evans may have been a small part of her life in the grand scheme of things, but she will always see him as the friend who wrote back to her in 1990.

“He takes the time for people,” said Glover. “I am happy he is the person I thought he was.”

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